Wednesday, May 24, 2017


If President Trump's overseas trip is less of a sustained pratfall than you expected, a Politico story by Annie Karni offers an explanation:
For four straight days, President Donald Trump did not live-tweet the cable shows. He didn’t mention his unlikely electoral win. And in visits to two countries where he was greeted with great fanfare, he never once complained about being treated unfairly.

Trump’s relatively successful swing through the Middle East was due to the fact that, for the most part, he didn’t get in his own way. It was also the result of months of careful planning. A decision was made early on to visit a part of the world where Trump is venerated and feared, and to pack his schedule so that he mostly stayed on message and, according to one aide, “didn’t have time to tweet.”
As Jason Easley writes:
... what the intentional scheduling of Trump’s time points to is that the President Of The United States can’t be treated like an adult. He has to be managed like a small child. If the President is left alone with time on his hands, he is going to grab his phone and start blasting out insane tweets.
So who are the supernannies who got Trump to behave? Karni has the names:
... a key factor was the role played by Dina Powell, H.R. McMaster and Jared Kushner, who brought a combination of government experience and understanding that Trump wanted to get some negotiated wins on the board.
It makes sense that the national security adviser would be deeply involved -- that would happen in a normal administration. And Kushner's involvement is unsurprising because, well, he's involved in everything (and also because, as Karni notes, he has ties to the Saudis). But let's focus on Dina Powell:
Trump also depended on Powell, the deputy national security adviser for strategy, to help spearhead the visit. An Egyptian-born fluent-Arabic speaker who served in the George W. Bush administration, Powell came with important contacts in the Arab world....

Powell, according to an administration official, was also instrumental in helping to craft the language Trump used in his Sunday speech on Islam, with a particular interest in his use of language about women’s rights.
Yeah, I thought the speech -- which I've seen ascribed to angry young man Stephen Miller -- seemed less snarly than Miller's usual work, such as Trump's convention speech and inaugural address. Now the reasonable tone makes sense.
Powell and McMaster coordinated with the Defense Department to firm up the $110 billion U.S.-Saudi weapons deal in time for Trump to announce it over the weekend....

Powell and McMaster together led the NSC’s interagency process for planning the trip....
Okay, okay -- I got it. A lot of this was Powell's doing. And it's gone -- by Trump standards -- surprisingly smoothly.

So you know what happens next, right?

When Trump gets back to Washington, it's possible that Powell will be given greater responsibility for virtually everything. Recall that Powell, a former Goldman Sachs executive, was originally hired as a White House economic adviser (and as an aide to Ivanka Trump and Kushner). Only later did she also become a foreign policy aide.

If Trump feels that this trip went well, he might conclude that the people who made that success possible should have all the responsibility going forward. (Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus were sent home early from the trip. We're being told that the early departures were always planned, and that Bannon and Priebus are needed back home to deal with Trump's D.C. struggles. But who knows?)

But ultimately, Trump's favorites are always required to do something impossible. Rush a terrible health care bill through Congress by an arbitrary deadline. Defend Mike Flynn when he's about to be fired. That sort of thing. And when they fail -- because Trump himself has created a situation in which only failure is possible -- the president gets angry and the favorite is sent to the doghouse.

If Powell's star is really rising, this could well be her fate. But hey, she signed on for this.

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